Month: January 2015

Christmas 2014 in Sri Lanka

We spent Christmas 2014 in the small surf town of Mirissa, on the southern coast of Sri Lanka.  We knew it could be tough emotionally being without our families on Christmas, so we made sure we booked a nice resort on the beach to spend our holiday.  Unfortunately though, it rained for 2 straight days leading up to Christmas, and all day on Christmas Day!

We started our day by calling our families back home on FaceTime.  However with the thunderstorms in the area, our internet connection was pretty spotty.  We were at least able to reach them, and wish them a quick holiday greeting before we lost connection.

Although we couldn’t spend the holiday relaxing on the beach because of the weather, we decided to make the most of our day anyway. We headed to the beach and found a couple of nice little bar/restaurants where we got comfy.  We had a couple of drinks, played some cards, had lunch, and just kind of chilled out for the day.

This was our Christmas tree this year:

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Our 2014 Christmas Tree!

We didn’t set up a tree at home this year, so we decided to adopt this tree we found along the beach in Mirissa.  One of the bars set it up, and even decorated it with ornaments, garland, and Christmas lights!

At one of the bars we stopped at, we found this very festive family.  We decided next year that we are going to pack Santa hats and wear them next year on Christmas Day! . . . . . . . NOT!

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Sweet hats eh?

Perhaps the toughest part of the day, was when we learned of the passing of Rachel’s Uncle Walter.  It definitely made being away from family on the holidays a bit tougher.  We knew that when we decided to move overseas, things like this could happen. However it didn’t make it any easier when we heard the news.  We did the only thing we could, we raised our glasses and cheersed to the great life he had.

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Throughout the day it continued to downpour.  In the early evening, we finally said, “screw it!”  We changed our clothes and headed straight for the ocean. The water was actually warmer than the rain, and we had a ton of fun swimming in the downpour rain and massive waves!

The following day, the sun came back out, and shined down on us for the next two weeks of our holiday. I think it was Uncle Walter’s first act of kindness in heaven!

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Mr. Pillow . . . . . Saved Again!

You may recall a blog post I did a few months ago, when we first moved to Kuwait called: Mr. Pillow.  Well, he still holds the top spot in Rachel’s heart, and I’m a distant second. However I am thinking I might have a scored a few bonus points with the Mrs. when I saved his life . . . . AGAIN!

During our Holiday Break, we checked into our tree house at Yala National Park, when Rachel suddenly realized that Mr. Pillow was gone!  We had just completed a 4 hour tuk tuk ride (it was supposed to be 2 hours) and I thought for sure it was laying on the side of the road somewhere in the beautiful countryside of Sri Lanka.  Rachel was bummed, however I was a bit excited. (Perhaps this was my chance at being #1 in her heart!)  Unfortunately though, my feelings of excitement did not last long. . . . .

We had just sat down for dinner at the hotel restaurant on our first night there.  We were hanging out with a few people from New Zealand, drinking some Lion Lagers, and watching some cricket on tv, when I noticed a blue blurr.  For a second, I just assumed it was the Lion Lagers taking their effect on me after 4 months of sobriety, but then I realized what it was . . . . . Mr. Pillow!

I asked Rachel, “is that your pillow?”  She nearly broke her neck, as she twisted her body in world record speed.  Her face lit up when she realized that it was indeed Mr. Pillow.  She nearly pulled a hamstring sprinting across the restaurant to go grab it!  It somehow must have fallen off her pack when we were getting out of the tuk tuk, and whoever found it, just put it in the lobby.

I was sure to capture this pic as she was reunited with Mr. Pillow:

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This is Rachel reuniting with Mr. Pillow. She had to go to the “lobby” of our “hotel” to grab it. It is kind of hard to see her ear-to-ear smile in this pic, but it’s there!

 

And then he joined us at the table for the rest of our dinner:

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Mr. Pillow got his own chair at the dinner table.

 

Everyone is happy that he is back with us:

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I’ll thumbs up to this!

 

I will continue to update the comings and goings of Mr. Pillow during our time in Kuwait.  He has survived a couple of times, but we’ll see how many lives he has!

 

 

 

Mitch’s Monday Happy Hour – January 26

Happy Monday Everyone!

We are back to work today after enjoying a busy, fun, and exciting 3-day weekend!  It was our first long weekend in a long time, so an extra day off to sleep in was much appreciated. On Friday afternoon, we found out that school would be closed on Sunday, due to the death of the Saudi Arabian King Abdullah.  The Kuwaiti Government announced 3 days of mourning, so all government offices (including schools) were closed Friday-Sunday. This was perhaps the busiest weekend we have had since being in Kuwait and it made us so thankful that we had a car. We probably put a couple of hundred miles on as we traversed the city/country.  Here’s what we are up to:

  • On Friday, a few of us took a road trip to the highest point in Kuwait, Mutla Ridge.  It was about an hour drive from Kuwait City towards the Iraqi border.  It is out in the middle of the desert, and there were quite a few people camping, having picnics, dune bashing and four-wheeling.  We drove the ol’ Durango to the top, enjoyed the sights, and took a little walk around. It was so nice to be out in nature and just chill outside.  After awhile, we were going to take off, when we found a guy renting four-wheelers on the side of the road. Of course we had to do it!  So we went ripping around the desert for an hour and had a blast. We took some fun pictures with our nice camera, so we’ll post those at another time, but here is a quick one that I took with my iPhone.
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Rachel ripping around at Mutla Ridge

  • After our time in the desert, we stopped at Street Fest.  It was a big block party in downtown Kuwait City, with different vendors selling all sorts of food, merchandise, clothing, jewelry, food, etc.  We got some dinner from one of the food trucks and enjoyed walking around and checking everything out.  I love festivals like this and it was super nice. Here’s a crappy iPhone pic I took:
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Street Fest 2015

  • On Sunday, I spent my day off at the golf course.  Me and a buddy tried our luck at one of the sand courses here called Ahmadi Golf Club.  Your are basically playing a round of golf in the middle of the desert, without any grass!  They give you a little piece of fake grass that you put your ball on before each shot.  I’ll post some more pics and share some of the funny stories another time, but here is a pic of my buddy in the middle of the fairway on hole #1.
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Fore!!!!!!!

  • I ran to the Ace Hardware last week to pick a few things up when I saw something strange . . . . an entire section of ice scrapers!!! I laughed to myself and thought, “why in the heck do they have ice scrapers here?”  Then I realized that most people who walk past them, probably have no idea what they actually are. Maybe people buy them to scrape stickers off windows? Or maybe they buy them to use as back scratchers?  When I first found out that they had an Ace Hardware here, someone described the store as, “they literally picked up an Ace Hardware from Minnesota, and dropped it in Kuwait.”  They even sell humming bird feeders (there’s no hummingbirds here), riding lawnmowers (there is no grass here), and tons of other super weird things. Without a doubt though, the ice scrapers are the craziest I’ve seen yet!
Such a nice variety of ice scrapers at the Kuwait City Ace Hardware!

Such a nice variety of ice scrapers at the Kuwait City Ace Hardware!

Gas Prices in Kuwait

When we were looking at buying a vehicle in Kuwait a couple of months ago, we knew we wanted a large, gas guzzling, SUV.  Mainly for the comfort, but also because we knew that gas was super cheap here. Our Durango has a 5.7L Hemi V8, and averages about 13 mpg (miles per gallon) in the city and about 18 mpg on the highway.  In all of the reviews we read online, the gas mileage was the biggest thing that people were complaining about it.  However since we lived in the Middle East, we knew it was the perfect place to buy a big SUV with horrible gas mileage.

Currently the gas is about $0.74 a gallon! It is literally cheaper than water or pop.

All of the gas stations here are full service, meaning that you just pull up to the pump, and an attendant fills your tank for you. It’s like magic!

Here’s a photo of my favorite gas station:

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They even have grass!

Look at the magic! I just sit in driver’s seat, play on my phone, and the gas is magically pumped into the vechicle!

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Viola, it’s magic!

This is the guy who pumps my gas:

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He’s a nice guy, and knows 5 words of english: Premium, Ultra, Full, Thank You Sir.

While the gas is being pumped, he goes around the entire vehicle and even washes all of the windows!

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Not all of the guys wash your windows, but my dude rocks!

It’s going to be so hard next summer when we return to Minnesota, and I actually have to get out of the vehicle and do it myself. #livinginluxury

Elephants

We had given up hope.  As we rode in our open aired jeep out of the national park we were already discussing how we could try and go to a different national park the next day.  We were leaving Yala National Park, the area in Sri Lanka with the most wild elephants without seeing a single elephant.  I was disappointed.  It had been raining for days, the park was flooded and it was just impossible to get further into the park, to find where the giant creatures were roaming.   The sun was setting and as we rounded the last corner to head out of the park gates an elephant was heading straight for us.

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He was huge.

He walked straight at us, throwing his trunk around and grabbing a trunkful of whatever was in his path.

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I did what anyone with a camera in their hands who was looking at an elephant would do. . . . I started wildly snapping pictures, barely taking the time to focus any of my shots.

I was so excited, I was silent giggling, worried that if I made a noise he would dart off into the jungle.   The only sounds I dared to emit were the clicks of my camera.

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As I continued to snap away Mitch quietly whispered in my ear, “Don’t forget to just look with your eyes.”

He was right, some moments are just better to be lived rather than captured.  So I put down my camera, reached over and grabbed my husband’s hand and looked with my eyes.

Mitch’s Monday Happy Hour – January 19

Greetings all,

It is literally freezing in Kuwait right now! I woke up the other morning and it was 2 degrees Celsius outside (36 Fahrenheit). As we walked to the car for work, we could see our own breath. I kept asking myself, “don’t we live in the desert?” Ok, rant over! I’m sure I’ll be complaining about how hot it is in a couple of months!

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Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

 

  • We had a great weekend, and it all kicked off on Thursday night with our first “Family Dinner.”  Rachel and I hosted dinner at our place for 11 of our close friends. We made spaghetti and everyone else brought a dish to share. The food was great, and the company was even better!  To make room for everyone, we moved all of our furniture out of the living room. We then borrowed two of our friends dinning room tables, and carried them to our place. The next thing you know, we had a total of 3 dinning room tables in a row, with room for 12! It reminded me of a holiday dinner with family, or perhaps the first Thanksgiving. If you wanted the chocolate cake and it was at the other end of the table, you had to holler down and wait 5 minutes before it made it to you. Then you just crossed your fingers that there was some left by the time it got to you. Luckily for me, I was able to dominate 2 pieces of the BEST chocolate cake I’ve ever had that night!
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Our Kuwaiti Family!

 

  • On Friday night, a group of us went to a fundraiser for the Kuwaiti Gaelic Football team. A couple of our friends play on the women’s team.  The event featured a nice dinner, and some entertainment that lasted late into the night. We had a blast, and had a ton of fun out on the town with friends.
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Supporting the Kuwait Harps.

 

  • This week we also found a great walking trail in Kuwait City.  We ended up down by the Kuwait Towers, and walked along the beach for a couple of hours. There is some very nice park areas down there, and tons of families were out having picnics.  We also saw a lot of soccer and basketball games, rollerbladers, bikers, joggers, etc. It was a nice paved path, and it felt just like we were taking a walk around Lake Calhoun back in Minneapolis.

 

  • Check this out . . . .  Rachel had to pick up a few things at the mall over the weekend so I did what I usually do . . . . wandered aimlessly until she was done.  During my daydream, I stumbled across a new scent of perfume that I have never seen before. The scent is TOBACCO!!!  To the ladies in my life . . . you may be getting some for Christmas next year!
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Awesome . . . Tobacco scented perfume!

 

We hope all is well, we’ll see you next week!

Cheers,
Mitch

 

Maldives Bungalow Tour

Mitch and I booked our trip to the Maldives way back in September. At the time, we decided to book a beachside bungalow, rather than one of those cool bungalows built on stilts over the water. We knew it would be super cool to stay in one of them, however they were so dang expensive.

Upon our arrival to the resort, we were surprised with a FREE upgrade to one of the over-the-water bungalows!  The hotel gods were definitely smiling down at us. We were ecstatic as we walked down the long dock to our little bunglow, and couldn’t believe how nice it was!  Check out this video tour of our bungalow!

The room was fabulous.  We were able to swim right off of our deck, and I did, immediately after checking into the room.  I ran down the steps and hopped in the water.  After a quick little swim I climbed the steps back up to the deck. I was staring happily at the crystal clear water below, looking at the huge tropical fish swim along, when suddenly a giant Manta Ray swam by!  It was bigger than our dining room table and was enough to make me a bit weary about swimming in the water again. It was like 6 feet long! After watching for another minute or so, 5 sharks swam by!  At that point my mind had been made up, I was going to do my swimming in the pool.

update: we got some feedback that the vide wasn’t loading properly.  Here is a link in case you can’t get it to work.https://vimeo.com/116477147

2014 Stats

We have throughly enjoyed sharing this blog with everyone, and love using WordPress.com to host it.  If anyone is considering to start a blog, we highly recommend them.  It is super easy to use, very organized, and they even keep stats for you.  They recently sent us an email containing our 2014 Annual Report. Here are a few fun facts from 2014 (September-December):

  • We posted 63 times, and had over 5,300 viewers!
  • Our busiest day was on September 24 when we posted our About Us section, it was viewed 142 times that day.
  • Here is the list of the Top 5 most viewed posts:
  1. Today
  2. Sri Lanka & the Maldives
  3. Apartment Tour
  4. Roll Call – Mitch? Here!
  5. It’s a Big World Out There, But Yet Small Too
  • Here is list of the countries where our viewers are reading our blog:
    • United States: 4,493
    • Kuwait: 297  *Hi friends!
    • Brazil: 190
    • Canada: 93
    • Germany: 30
    • Italy: 30
    • Less than 25 readers:  Mexico, Puerto Rico, Panama, Venezuela, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Angola, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Portugal, Spain, England, Ireland, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, Russia, Serbia, Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria, Albania, Greece, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Pakistan, India, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand!

What started out as a small little blog that we created to keep in touch with our family and friends from back home, has now spread across the world. We would love to hear from you, so comment on a post or shoot us an email. We would love to hear from our readers, tell us what you enjoy about our blog or send us any questions or idea topics you would like us to cover.

Wherever you are located, thank you to everyone for their readership and support.  This blog has turned into a fun little hobby, and we are thrilled that you are following along with our adventure.

Cheers,
Mitch & Rachel

Mitch’s Monday Happy Hour – January 11

We have our first week of work under our belts since returning from our holiday vacation. The laundry is finally finished, we have food in our cabinets, and we are back into our daily routine. Here’s a quick recap of what we’ve been up to:

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Here’s a pic from inside the mosque. This was our tour guide, he was awesome!

 

  • Last weekend we went on a tour of the Grand Mosque in downtown Kuwait City. We had a ton of fun and always enjoy learning about new cultures and religions. This mosque isn’t quite as big as the one we toured in Abu Dhabi back in October, this one ONLY seats 10,000 people!  I think our tour guide said it was the 7th largest mosque in the world. The detail and architecture were awesome. I especially enjoyed our tour guide, because he also provide insight into the Islamic religion, rather than just showing us the mosque. He translated the “Call of Prayer” for us and also explained other traditions, customs, and values that Muslims follow. It was a fun couple of hours, and an enjoyable way to spend our Saturday morning.

 

  • Back in September I tossed up this blog post about how excited I was when I found my favorite deodorant at a store here. Well . . . . I was out shopping the other night and I found it again! They only had 4 of them, so of course I bought them all. Later that night I just happened to be looking at my receipt, when I converted the price of the to U.S. dollars and realized that I had spent $33.00 USD on those 4 sticks of deodorant . . . . yikes!!!!  However, I am so excited that I found them again!

 

  • We are in the middle of our first Kuwaiti winter (upper 60s/70s) and I am embarrassed to say . . . . we turned the heat in our apartment on for the first time! We have been doing the pants/sweatshirts/blankets around here for awhile, but we finally said “screw it” and decided to fire it up. During our winters in Minnesota we usually had our heat set around 68 degrees Fahrenheit. However we have become so acclimated to the warmer temperatures here, that we set our heat at 76 degrees!  Everyone probably thinks we are nuts, but it is sooooo nice and warm in here now. I’m not sure how we are going to survive next summer back in Minnesota!

That’s all for this week, until next week everyone . . . . .

Cheers,
Mitch

We Found Real Bacon!

Upon our arrival in Sri Lanka, I was in search for two things:

  1. Booze
  2. Pork, more specifically Bacon

We quickly found a bar on the beach, and started enjoying the first of many beers, however they didn’t have bacon.  We stumbled down the beach until we came to another bar/restaurant called Koko’s on the Beach.  It’s a little family run place owned by a super cool British guy, his Sri Lankan wife, and their two daughters.  One of their daughters was about 2 years old, and her job was to bring us our beers. One time her mother brought out a round for us, and the little girl burst into tears because SHE wanted to bring them to us!  It kind of made me excited to have a 2-year old kid one day to run back-and-forth to the fridge for me 😉

I noticed on the menu at Koko’s that they had a bacon cheeseburger. I asked the owner if the bacon was pork, and when she confirmed, I told her that we wanted a plate of JUST bacon!  Her english wasn’t the best, and she kept double checking that she heard me right, “you want 10 pieces of bacon?”  I smiled and said yes, however all I could think of in my head was: Yes lady! I haven’t had a piece of pork in 4 months, goooo!!!!!

Minutes later, her husband brought out a plate full of the best bacon that I have ever had! It was greasy, grizzly, crispy, and fucking delicious! (sorry for the language mom).  I kind of felt like the dog in this video when he was carrying it out to us.

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It was so good, that I had to take a picture of it!

The owner was baffled at my order, and started asking, “why so much bacon?”  After explaining that we lived in a Muslim country and that pork was illegal, he felt so bad for us that he didn’t even want to charge us for it. We slipped him some money, and returned again a few days later for another plate of bacon!